Peace Studies

The Environment: Issues in Justice, Conflict, and Peacebuilding

The Peace Studies department, Environmental Studies, Jay Phillip Center for Interfaith Learning, and Welcome Fest are pleased to announce the 34th annual Peace Studies Conference.

The Environment: Issues in Justice, Conflict, and Peacebuilding: A Conference in Honor of the Late Fr. Rene McGraw

You can find a recording of this portion of the 34th Annual Peace Studies Conference here

September 18, 2023
1:00-4:30 P.M. in 204 A/B Gorecki (CSB)


Fr. Rene McGraw, creator and co-founder of the SJU Peace Studies program in 1987, passed into the next world on November 20, 2022. A long-time professor of philosophy at our institutions, Rene was famous for his radiant smile, twinkling eyes, and the over-buttered popcorn he shared with students in his residence hall. With a PhD from the University of Paris, he became a dedicated teacher, monk, and priest, committed to helping his colleagues and students live the Benedictine values taught by our institutions. His courses on Philosophies of Violence and Nonviolence, Aesthetics of Violence and Nonviolence, and other social justice topics challenged students to read closely, study attentively, and act courageously in the world. Students often shared that “Rene’s class was the hardest course I ever took; it’s also the one where I learned the most.” We dedicate our 34th Annual Peace Studies Conference to his memory and hope that everyone who attends will be blessed by the spirit of peace he brought to our work.

1:00-1:55: "Environmental Peacebuilding: Yesterday, Today. and Tomorrow."

Opening Words by CSB+SJU President Brian Bruess.

Welcome and Introduction by Dr. Jon Armajani, Department of Peace Studies Faculty.

Opening Keynote by Dr. Ken Conca, American University: "Environmental Peacebuilding: Yesterday, Today. and Tomorrow."

Ken Conca is a professor of International Relations in the School of International Service at American University. His research focuses on environment, conflict, and peacebuilding; water politics and governance; and the role of the United Nations in environmental governance. Dr. Conca’s work has been recognized with several major awards, including the Grawemeyer Prize for Ideas Improving World Order, the Al-Moumin Award for thought leadership in environmental peacebuilding, the Harold and Margaret Sprout Award for best book on international environmental affairs, and the Chadwick Alger Prize for best book in the field of International Organization. He was a founding member of the UN Environment Programme’s Expert Advisory Group on Conflict and Peacebuilding. Recent books include An Unfinished Foundation: The United Nations and Global Environmental Governance and The Oxford Handbook of Water Politics and Policy (both with Oxford University Press). Dr. Conca earned his Ph.D. from the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley.

2:10-3:05: Panel: Religion & the Environment

Moderator: Dr. Jon Armajani, Department of Peace Studies

Abbot John Klassen, St. John's Monastery: "Benedictinism and the Environment."

Abbot John Klassen, OSB is in his 23rd year as leader of Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville. He leads a community of 100 Benedictine monks who sponsor and work at Saint John’s University, Saint John’s Preparatory School, the Liturgical Press as well as other ministries in central Minnesota. He has long been interested in questions related to the non-violent resolution of conflict and was associated with the founding of the Peace Studies program at CSB and SJU.

Dr. Jon Armajani, Department of Peace Studies: "Islam and the Environment."

Jon Armajani, Ph.D., is Professor in the Department of Peace Studies at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University in Minnesota. His scholarship focuses primarily on the relationships between Islam and politics in the Middle East and North Africa, and secondarily in South Asia. He is the author of Dynamic Islam: Liberal Muslim Perspectives in a Transnational Age (2004), Modern Islamist Movements: History, Religion, and Politics (2012), and Shia Islam and Politics:  Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon (2020). He co-edited with James E. Lindsay Historical Dimensions of Islam: Pre-Modern and Modern Periods: Essays in Honor of R. Stephen Humphreys (2009).   He also co-edited with Wilbert van Saane Religion, Education, and Peace: Proceedings of an Online International Conference Held in March 2021 (2022). He is a coordinating editor of the Journal of Social Encounters, and has published scholarly articles and book chapters in his fields of expertise.  He is currently working on a book entitled The Armenian Diaspora and Modern Political Systems:  Religious and Ethnic Minorities in their Historical Contexts (2022).  He teaches courses related to Christianity, Islam, and Middle East Politics.

3:20-4:15: Panel: Environmental Justice

Moderator: Dr. Theodor Gordon, CSB+SJU Director, Initiative for Native Nation Relation

Dr. Derek Larson, Department of Environmental Studies: "Global Environmental Justice."

Derek Larson is a Professor of Environmental Studies and History at CSB/SJU and teaches courses on American and world environmental history, natural resource management, sustainability, and other topics. His academic background includes undergraduate and graduate degrees in history, religion, and environmental studies. He has been at CSB|SJU since 1998 and has served as founding chair of the Environmental Studies Department since 2001.

Angel Stevens. The Giniw Collective and The Niibi Center for the Rights of Nature. Environmental Justice in the US.

Co-sponsored by the CSB+SJU Department of Peace Studies, the CSB+SJU Department of Environmental Studies, and the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning.

*CSB+SJU is on the original homeland of the Dakhóta and Anishinaabe peoples. We honor and respect the Indigenous peoples who were forcibly removed from and who are still connected to this territory.<

Climate Change, Health, and Equity

October 16, 2023
7:00-8:15 p.m. in the Pellegrene Auditorium (SJU)

MaryDr. Cheryl Holder, MD will provide the closing keynote portion of the CSB+SJU annual peace studies conference. Dr. Cheryl L. Holder, a graduate of Princeton University and George Washington University School of Medicine, a National Health Service Corp Scholar, Internist, and HIV Specialist served as Medical Director of one of Miami’s largest community health centers and on NIH and CDC health advisory and programmatic review panels. She dedicated her career to improving health of underserved populations.

In 2009, she joined Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine’ faculty, where she taught about the social determinants of health, diversity, and the health impact of climate change. She retired 12/31/22, as the Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity and Community Initiatives.  

Her leadership roles include organizations such as president of Florida State Medical Association, Founder and Co-Chair of Florida Clinicians for Climate Action and Co-chair of Miami Dade Heat Health Task Force. Her TED Talk “The link between climate change, health and poverty” garnered over 300,000 views.

Cultivating Hope and Change: Student Research in Support of Global Climate Action

Founders Room (Quad 170, SJU) 4:15-5:30 PM

Beginning in Paris in 2015, Bennies and Johnnies, accompanied by professors, have participated in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) annual Conference of Parties (COP). Join us as six current students share the research projects they have undertaken in advance of, during, and after attending the COP27 in Egypt (2022) and COP28 in the United Arab Emirates (Nov-Dec 2023). Additionally, panelists will share how this research and this international climate governance experience has shaped their future plans.


Jeffrey Anderson, Chair of Peace Studies


Mahina Melim

Tom Hobday

Jalayna Smith-Moore

Fredi Ponce Parra

Finn Dolezal

Landon Peterson